One of Austin's most acclaimed restaurant talents is saying goodbye. Master sommelier June Rodil, currently vice president of operations for McGuire Moorman Hospitality and namesake of the eponymous June's All Day on South Congress Avenue, is leaving the Capital City for Houston.
As it prepares to open three new concepts in Montrose, Houston restaurant group Goodnight Hospitality has lured Rodil to become a fourth partner along with local businessman Peter McCarthy, chef Felipe Riccio, and master sommelier David Keck.
In addition to being just one of 26 female master sommeliers in the Americas, she currently oversees MMH's 11 restaurants as VP including including Perla’s, Clark’s, and Jeffrey’s. She will retain her partnership in June’s All Day, the neighborhood restaurant recognized by Food & Wine as one of its restaurants of the year in 2017. For the next few weeks, she’ll help McGuire Moorman prepare for her departure before officially starting with Goodnight in April.
“It’s been very amicable,” Rodil tells CultureMap. “I’ll remain an adviser in case they have any questions about the wine list. I plan on eating [at June’s] whenever I’m in Austin visiting my family.”
Rodil explains that her new business relationship evolved out of her eight-year friendship with Keck. For the last several years, they’ve served as coordinators for the 200 volunteers at TexSom, the annual beverage conference that draws 1,000 wine professionals from across the country. As they studied together for the famously grueling master sommelier exam, they became close friends who contemplated the possibility of working together someday.
“We’ve had this running joke for three or four years where it’s like, ‘there aren’t a lot of people I’d want to work with in the wine world; I’d probably work with you, though. I can work with you. We should do that sometime,’” Keck tells CultureMap.
With Goodnight in the process of opening its new concepts — Montrose Cheese and Wine, a retail wine shop; Rosie Cannonball, a casual neighborhood restaurant with a wood-burning oven; and March, a fine dining restaurant that showcases Riccio’s culinary talents — the joking around became serious. The existing partners sought someone with significant experience both opening and operating multiple concepts. Given her abilities and her personal relationship with Keck, Rodil quickly emerged as the ideal candidate.
“When David, Felipe, and I started talking about June possibly coming on, it seemed so far-fetched, but once we met, it really just made sense. Beyond being a service badass — and her entire resume — her attention to detail is going to fit in perfectly as a development company,” McCarthy says.
The opportunity to join an emerging hospitality group as a partner and work with a close friend proved too tempting to resist. As Rodil points out, if she were inclined to play it safe, she would still be a beverage director instead of overseeing operations for one of the state’s highest-profile hospitality companies.
“I could have been totally happy at my job in perpetuity, but I would have asked myself ‘what if’ for the rest of my life,” Rodil says. “I already know I can work with David every day and not get tired of his face. He rounds me out. We’re opposites, and we appreciate that about each other. Getting to know Felipe and Pete on a business level, everybody has a strength that’s different from the others.”
The obvious question is which master somm will fill what role, but the new partners reject the assertion that they have to answer that right away — or at all. Tentatively, they’ll work together on creating wine lists for the Goodnight businesses and divide other responsibilities depending on their skills and interests.
“I think what we’re looking at ... is to reshape the pretty old and tired restaurant group model, which is ‘this is our wine person, this is our spirits person, this is our chef, this is our CFO,’” Keck says. “That’s been done, and it’s fine. But I think we’re trying to think outside of that to how we creatively reimagine those roles.”
“It’s obviously a new relationship and a new partnership,” Rodil adds. “We have an idea of what our dossier is, but that doesn’t mean we want to restrict ourselves. That’s part of the appeal.”
Montrose Cheese and Wine and Rosie Cannonball are both on track for a late June opening, per Keck. March is a little more in flux. “We’ll open it as soon as we can, but it’s not something we’ll get two shots at. We need to do it right the first time,” he says.
Regardless of when that is, diners should expect to see both Keck and Rodil working the floor of all four establishments. Rodil realizes she’s taking on a big challenge but says she's excited to join a city with as much wine talent as Houston has.
“It is a big leap,” she says. “As the days get closer to the start date, it just feels more and more right.”